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THINX is on a mission to vaporize stigma around menstruation. When gearing up to launch the first FDA-cleared reusable tampon applicator (re.t.a) in history (!), the femtech innovator tapped ThoughtMatter to help them rethink reuse. We tossed out the conventional visual signifiers of sustainability, creating packaging that aligned care for the planet with self-care. It was out with the brown chipboard and granola, and in with richness and wellbeing.
There are approximately seven billion tampons thrown out every year in the United States, alone. A full 88% of tampons are sold with single-use, throwaway applicators, which can each take up to 500 years to decompose. In a single day, more than 20,000 of these applicators were picked up on beaches around the world, underscoring the way that they contribute to the environmentally devastating phenomenon of ocean plastics.
In this light, calling re.t.a an innovative or disruptive product would be an understatement. It’s an entirely new type of product, one that reduces the amount of personal period waste produced by each menstruating human that chooses to use it by 58%. But innovation is all about change, and change can be intimidating—especially when it comes to health.
The packaging for re.t.a needed to explain what this brand-new product was but present it in a way that felt welcoming and familiar. We took this project as an opportunity to completely rethink how reuse, itself, is communicated through package design. We worked closely with THINX Design Director Meng Shui and her team to make the sustainable choice feel uplifting and affirming, rather than limiting.
Inspired by the packaging of cosmetics, the final re.t.a box is made of a midweight stock with a luxurious soft-touch coating. Warm shades of cream and red offer a striking contrast to the synthetically bright pinks, blues, and purples typical of femcare packaging. The use of THINX’s color palette was central to making re.t.a feel accessible, as it taps into the trust that consumers already have for the THINX brand.
The cover of the box features a sleek diagrammatic illustration of the re.t.a complemented by a cyclical series of gloss-coated tampon icons that communicate movement and underscore the product’s reusability. Building on the cheeky tone of THINX’s brand voice, the phrase “better period, better planet” appears on the side. Lifting up the cover reveals an invitation: “this is the start of a new cycle” opposite an informational pamphlet.
Beneath the pamphlet, the re.t.a sits in a recessed red tray that is, itself, encased in a cream panel, presenting a cubistic representation of female anatomy that’s borne out of the dedication to surrealism that makes the THINX brand so distinctive.
The pamphlet, itself, presents clear and concise instructions for using re.t.a, as well as an infographic that explains how opting for reuse impacts the environment. The infographic’s most striking visual element is a line illustration of the planet Earth, shaped as an egg—another surrealistic wink.
Through the careful use of color, texture, and wit, the packaging for re.t.a introduces a revolutionary product in an enticing way. Here, a product designed with sustainability front of mind is presented as premium, personal, and even a bit luxurious. It brushes aside the stigma often associated with periods and period-related products. It makes the consumer feel good about something that society has long taught them to hide.